It may be famous for its clientele, but it's actually a warm and friendly place. The staff are very smart at reading the national press and keeping up to date with the business world. The day after I won businesswoman of the year in 2001, I had a meeting there with an ad agency. The staff didn't know in advance that I would be there, but they still sent over a bottle of pink champagne to congratulate me. They are super-efficient and very slick, but genuine with it.
For business lunches, the service has to be good but discreet - you don't want an eager waiter hovering over you. And as the days of long lunches are over, it has to be speedy. I was at the Ivy with the head of MI5 the day the England cricket team paraded the Ashes in Trafalgar Square. She had trouble getting there and had only an hour. We had one course and a coffee, but the staff were able to accommodate us.
For a lunch to go smoothly, the food has to be good. And the food at the Ivy is excellent. The menu doesn't change much - enough to keep it interesting, but the old favourites are always there. The tomato basil galette is to die for, they do a mean shepherd's pie, the sashimi is fantastic and the loin of yellow-fin tuna is excellent.
If I'm the one arranging the lunch, I rarely try somewhere new. It's always best to know the restaurant because you don't want to have to worry about the service or the quality.
THE IVY 1 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ, 020 7836 4751 www.caprice-holdings.co.uk Average price (three courses) £46 FAVOURITE DISHES Plum tomato and basil galette £7 Shepherd's pie £14.50 Dianne Thompson is chief executive of Camelot